Monday, 5 May 2014

Episode review: "Equestria Games" (S4E24)

Spike is unhappy; his friends try to look casual
"I have shades stashed all over Equestria, in case of shades emergencies!!
And here it is: the very last episode of Season 4 of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic before Saturday's epic (surely) finale. This review is slightly late, owing to my having had a very busy weekend, so let's get straight on with it. This time around, the episode was written by Dave Polsky, who in my eyes has had a pretty decent, if not quite stellar, record this term. (Though "Rarity Takes Manehattan" showed how classy his writing can be.) Would episode 24 be one for the ages? Past the break, I'll tell you what I think.

Although rounding off the light Games arc, this was (broadly) a Spike episode, which was a slight surprise after last week's ep also having a fairly high Spike quotient. The baby dragon has never yet starred in a truly classic episode... and no, this one didn't break his duck. It was enjoyable and had some interesting elements, though, so it probably managed to be slightly better than the "decent filler" episode that this one might well have been. As I said last week, though, I really doubt that Spike can carry an ep on his own.

The Equestria Games themselves could have made a season finale had Meghan McCarthy chosen, so it was a slight surprise when I first found out they'd be in an ordinary one-shot episode. There was therefore some slight disappointment in that we didn't see very much of the actual events. All right, "Fall Weather Friends" may have covered sporting contests pretty well, but a pony version of that classic old cartoon Animalympics could have been brilliant, and Polsky is a writer who could have pulled it off.

A changeover in the aerial relay
I'm glad to see Rarity saw sense as far as the team vests went!
The one event we did see in any detail, though – the ice archery – was nicely portrayed. The creation of the threat with the "ice cloud" seemed a tad unlikely, (shouldn't there have been safeguards in place for such an eventuality? I'll deal with another point this brings up in a minute) and I wasn't entirely convinced by Spike suddenly creating a far larger fire-breath than he's ever managed in the past, but still. Maybe being at the scene of his greatest triumph inspired him! Perhaps someone will create a human version of that game, just as Harry Potter fans have done with quidditch...

I did wonder for a while how they were going to handle magic in a sporting context, but the airport-style arch was a nice way of dealing with that. Was it "racial profiling"? Well, sort of... but in Equestria, there absolutely are differences between ponies based purely on their race, so it's presumably uncontroversial. Unicorns (and alicorns) have horns: earth ponies and pegasi don't. It's that clear-cut. It also has something of a parallel in the disabling of Rainbow Dash's wings way back in "Fall Weather Friends".

Mind you, this does bring up a potential plot hole, which is this: once it was clear that the ice cloud was so dangerous, why didn't any of the four alicorns present intervene? It's been suggested that they also submitted to having their magic disabled for the Games, but that poses questions of its own with regard to security. Imagine if Cadance had been without her magic for the Crystal Faire in the S3 premiere: Sombra would have won before the "Great and Honourable" Spike had got anywhere near the Crystal Heart.

Spike melts the ice cloud
If only you'd put a roof on your stadium, this wouldn't have happened...
And then there was that anthem-singing scene. If this had gone on for ten seconds, I'd have found it simply funny. But by keeping the focus on Spike's torment for the entire song, this section of the episode did start to feel really rather uncomfortable. I actually admire Spike for being able to think up words on the fly, even completely incorrect ones. One thing I did find amusing was the nicely judged parody of overlong national anthems, something too many countries in our own world have!

One final point I'd like to make, and it's a very good one for this show, too: it was nice cliché-subversion in having Rainbow Dash not quite win the relay at last gasp. I have always detested the mindset that "second is nowhere, it's just first of the losers" and I'm glad MLP:FiM has made the point. It's a good moral: that healthy competition is good, but that winning is not, and never should be, the only thing that matters. It was rather heart-warming seeing Rainbow Dash genuinely pleased with Ponyville's silver at the end.

 It does look, reading back what I've written, as though I had a lot of difficulties with "Equestria Games". That's maybe a little over the top: I did enjoy it for the most part, and the problems can mostly be hoofwaved away. However, there were too many niggles for this to be a Celestia-tier episode. As with so many of Polsky's other efforts, it was good entertainment that didn't quite hit the heights. Finally: imagine, in a week's time we'll all know how this season ended: it's been quite a ride, hasn't it?

Lyra has her magic disabled
"Humans don't have wings or magic" – now you're like them, Lyra!
Favourite quote: Twilight: "Equestria... we have a problem."

  • Good to see Spike get recognition for "The Crystal Empire"
  • Twilight's slightly awkward caring nature was well done
  • Satisfying to have Ponyville win, and be happy with, silver
  • The ice archery was a nice idea well executed
  • The magic-disabling arch (mostly) solved one problem
  • Nice variety of ponies (and griffons, and dragons)
  • All four princesses in one place – a first, I think!
  • Derpy. I had to mention her somewhere!
  • Once more, Spike shows he can't quite cut it as an A-list star
  • Letting the anthem scene run so long was a little unkind
  • Why didn't the alicorns intervene when real danger threatened?
  • The "total medals beat gold count" thing is weird for we non-North Americans!


  1. omg... another review where basically every point I agreed with D: I'm still waiting on a review where I flat out disagree :P the ep did have some great little moments even if Spike is a weak carry. Altho perhaps I was a little more irked by Spike's weakness as an ep-centre than you which leaves me sticking at around 6.5-7ish for the ep

    1. I was actually thinking 7 for most of the time, but in the end I nudged it up half a point because I found the way the Twilight/Spike friendship was portrayed really rather cute. Maybe I was also a bit generous because for a Spike episode it was pretty good. If the finale is only this good, it ain't gonna get a 7.5, though!